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Born in Oxford in 1937, Robert Grant lives in the same house in Headington, on the outskirts of the university city, where his timber merchant father, Lawrence, imbued in him a love and respect for wood and taught him the rudiments of furniture making in his garden workshop. He honed his skills at Loughborough College, studying under Edward Barnsley, a doyen of designer craftsmen, carrying on the traditions of the Arts and Crafts movement founded by William Morris in the 19th century.
Recent illness means that Mr Grant is not so active today, either as a furniture maker or as a member of the famous Headington Quarry Morris Dancers. This chair, made for his daughter Judith’s wedding in 1999, was based on the centuries-old High Wycombe Windsor wheel back design, with legs and back spindles in English beech, and arms and seat in English elm. He would normally charge up to £500 for the 200 hours it took to make.
Robert explains: 'It’s not a very profitable business. You might think that furniture making is a dying art, but it isn’t. It’s flourishing, even though it requires a big capital outlay for tools. There are some tremendous courses for designer craftsmen, and you only have to visit arts and crafts fairs to see the wonderful work being turned out by young people today.'
oil on board
H 73 x W 114 cm
on loan from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters